'Camp meeting' draws people from rural cotton fields

by Karen L. Willoughby, |
Evangelist Bill Britt has led revivals in rural churches as well as overseas. He formerly served as president of the Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists.

CROWVILLE, La. (Christian Examiner) – Members of Crockett Point Baptist Church in Crowville, Louisiana, today are humbled, says Pastor Joe Senn.

A four-day revival meeting in early March turned into a 14-day movement of God that resulted in 197 people "walking the aisle" at the church, plus 60 who did the same in two sessions at the local high school.

"Very soon in this revival we realized this was not about us," Senn told Christian Examiner. "It was very humbling to my people and myself that God chose to do what He did, and not because of what we've done, but what He did."

Crockett Point Baptist is a rural church surrounded by cotton fields in east-central Louisiana. Organized in 1950, it has grown from fewer than 100 people in 1990 to about 250 participating in Sunday morning worship.

From the time Senn, a former evangelist, was called 15 years ago as pastor, he has led the church most years to have an annual spring revival and fall in-gathering, which he calls a "camp meeting" though it takes place inside the church.

"I've been in ministry for 30 years and was in full-time evangelism for eight," Senn said. "I've never seen anything close to what we had here."

Prayer was the key, the pastor said. Drenching rain each day did not deter people who seemed to be compelled to be there. Despite the rain, the revival was extended three times.

The Southern Gospel group Mackey Willis Family led worship by song each night at the 14-day Crockett Point Baptist Church revival held in Crowville, Louisiana.

Each January, Senn leads the church to 21 days of prayer and fasting, followed by an end-of-fast celebration. This year, the prayer inexplicably continued with nightly prayer meetings for a month at the church, which had not been proposed beforehand by the pastor or other church leaders.

"It wasn't planning or strategy or even a desire of the people," Senn said. "I mean, God just did it!"

The church that sometimes will expand to 300 people on occasional Sundays saw every night of the revival more than 500 people participating in the service. Extra chairs were brought in, and some people sat on the floor.

Senn had asked the Mackey Willis family of Southern Gospel evangelistic singers to lead music, and Evangelist Bill Britt to preach.

"Nobody responds to Christ until they're desperate for Him," Senn said. "That's almost a given. Left to our own, we don't seek God. It wasn't the people here sought God. God sought the people, and therein lies the difference."

The toe-tapping, hand-clapping Southern Gospel as played and sung by the Mackey Willis family helped set the stage for God to move, Senn said. So did Bill Britt's rousing preaching.

"The church had prepared very well," Britt told Christian Examiner. "Prayer is the key.

"The Lord had begun to move already in January and February, and by the time of the revival, there was an expectancy," the evangelist continued. Fourteen people had made professions of faith in Jesus before the revival began.

"The people came expecting God to speak to them, to move them," Britt said. "The people came hungry to hear from the Lord."

Fear is prevalent across the nation, Britt onserved.

"A lot of people are seeing the handwriting on the wall," the evangelist continued. "People are scared to death. I believe they are afraid of dying.

"A lot of folks are messed up and the Gospel brings hope," he said. "They're trying to get off drugs and alcohol and putting their marriages back together, and the Gospel brings hope."

The revival had started with teenagers in the church, Senn said. It spread to young adults in the church, and outward from there to the community as a whole. To date, 69 people have been baptized at Crockett Point Baptist Church, 90 more at other churches in the area.

Those who have not yet been baptized have been added to Crockett Point Baptist's age-graded Sunday School classes' prospect lists, to ensure that every person who made a profession of faith is followed up with.

"We're going back through the basics of salvation, security and service in every one of the Sunday School classes," Senn said. "It's like a new members class for everybody."

The revival also spread out from Crowville three weeks later to Pinehill Baptist Church in Olla, Louisiana, which extended its meeting by two days, during which 48 people made professions of faith.

"The Sunday we started at Pinehill we had 50 people in Sunday School and 48 saved," Britt said. "We were having 300 in every service. It was just the Lord moving.

"All we could do was serve the Lord," the evangelist continued. "There was no reason for people to come like that but the Lord calling them. When the church prays and prepares and the word of God is preached, as it says in Ephesians 4:11, the body of Christ is built up."

The movement of God that was evident at Crockett Point Baptist and later at Pinehill Baptist was unusual, Britt acknowledged. In 30 years of fulltime ministry as an evangelist, he could only recall two other times when the movement of God was as evident.

Both were several years ago, and both were in rural areas: Philadelphia, Mississippi, which extended to 17 days, and Longview, Louisiana.

"It seems like He's moving in these obscure areas," Britt said. "I preach the Lordship of Jesus Christ versus just having religion, and that we need to prepare to meet God before we die."